Nov 4, 2010

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Notes from the worlds grumpiest traveller

Dean ENow don’t get me wrong, I look forward to my holidays as much as the next person. In fact I can’t think of anything better than leaving the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind for a couple of weeks and spending my days relaxing on a beach with the biggest worry  in the world being what drink to choose next. When I’m there it’s great, but getting there is another story altogether.

That period of time between leaving my front door in rainy Wales and arriving at the steps of our villa in sunny Spain is usually filled with a mixture of stress, wasting money on overpriced food and drink and usually suffering from some form of cramp after being squashed into an uncomfortable airline seat. Now people tell me that this is just me and that the ‘getting there’ bit should all be part of my holiday but I disagree. Next time you’re in the airport or on an airplane look around you and count how many people you can see smiling, I guarantee you will only need to count on one hand.  So unless your name is Sir Richard Branson or Lord Alan Sugar and you have a private jet to ferry you around the globe, the likelihood is that you also have to endure the travelling nightmare. Check out my top gripes and see if you agree.

The dreaded check-in queue

The dreaded check-in queue

1.    Arriving at the airport
Once you’ve parked your car and arrived at the terminal laden with bags, that small amount of excitement you had about going on holiday is instantly extinguished by a queue for the check in desks that snakes around for miles usually culminating in having to stand up and queue for at least one hour. This is made even more irritating by the banks of empty check-in desks that appear to be there just to mock you.

2.    Airport security
Now I’m a big fan of airport security, anything that is deemed to make our travel safer is fine by me. However that doesn’t give the men and women at passport control the right to give me an evil look and have the demeanor of a prison guard. The misery starts with the endless queue that you have to endure but it only gets worse when you have to remove 50% of your clothes before walking through the scanners. I’ve been seen several times trudging through passport control with no watch, no shoes and holding my trousers up after my belt had to take a detour in order to be scanned. Even then the buzzer usually still goes off and the surly security man wants to empty the entire contents of my bag that I’ve spent hours packing meticulously to search for nasty things.

3.    Airport Shops
Remember the days when you could go to the airport, buy goods and actually save money? Not anymore. If you can battle through the throngs of holidaymakers queuing for a pint of beer at 4am and eventually make it into a shop you will usually find that the aftershave you were after is actually far cheaper on the high street.

You'll have to wait for the duty free trolley if you need the bathroom

You'll have to wait for the duty free trolley if you need the bathroom

4.    Finding a seat on the plane
In these days of low cost air travel, many carriers have decided to remove seat allocation and basically make finding your seat on the plane a free for all. The battle for the seat of your choice ensues as soon as your flight’s gate number is announced. Unseasoned travellers can tell when this is, not by taking note of the flight number on the airport screens but by waiting for the whole departure area to shudder as a herd of holidaymakers come trampling through. A queue will instantly form by the gate. If you want to ensure you’re one of the first on the plane it’s probably wise to practice sprinting in the days before you go to the airport so you can be first in the queue.

5. The flight
Airplanes are undoubtedly one of mans greatest inventions. They allow to us visit places never previously dreamed of. But the person that had the bright idea of fitting planes with so many seats, that each passenger is afforded about one inch of legroom should be shot out of a cannon. If there isn’t a small child behind screaming or kicking your seat repeatedly causing your ‘warmed through’ poor excuse for a meal to fall all over your lap, the chap on the loudspeaker is droning on constantly about either duty free goods (that are usually more expensive than in the high street), scratch cards or telling me not to use the toilet because it’s broken. And even if you’ve managed to avoid the screaming children and taken ear plugs with you, the likelihood is that you will be sat in the vicinity of one of three groups of people; a hen or stag do, a group who’ve been drinking for the past five hours or a smelly person. The latter is usually the worst. For these reasons I’m glad my usual route to Spain is over in less than three hours.

6.    Arriving at your destination
So you’ve endured the airport nightmare and got to your destination in one piece but the hell isn’t over yet.  With 150 people itching to get off the plane as soon as humanly possible you always get trapped in an awkward position half way between a person and a seat. People then seem intent on turning their mobile phones on before they’ve left the plane which leads to an angry shout over the loudspeaker to turn it back off again.

7.    Collecting your baggage

Quic everyone, race to the baggage collection - only to be stood waiting for the next hour

Quick everyone, race to baggage collection - only to be stood waiting for the next hour

Now I don’t know much about the journey my suitcase takes between being removed from the hold of the plane to arriving on the carousel but by the state of most of the cases I see, I can only presume they have been dropped from a great height or used as some sort of shield in a war-zone. More often than not I’ve seen a case in what can only be described as a poor state of repair followed by several items of clothes. Now I could understand this if the cases had made the journey in world record time, but by now I’ve already been waiting for 45 minutes.

8.    Getting to your resort
Unless you want to suffer a hot, sweaty and vomit filled coach journey it’s defiantly a good idea to hire a car once you’ve landed. But this also brings with it a world of woe. The last thing you want to do after enduring  the journey is to queue more, but that’s exactly what you have to do in order to hire a car. The car hire queue is probably the worst queue of all. Not because it’s long (they’re usually deceptively short) but because of the sheer amount of time it takes to process each customer. I have literally waited for an hour to get served when there have been no more than three people in front of me in the queue. The language barrier doesn’t help speed things up and the delay is usually made even worse by the endless upgrades and extras that the man behind the desk is trying to sell you.  But once you have those keys in your hand, start up the engine and pull out of the car park, you’ve made it, you’re free. That is until the return journey…
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Images used in this post are used under the creative commons licence and are sourced from flickr.com. Respective image authors are:

Check in Queue - Marte68
In Flight -  Caccamo
Baggage Collection – MarkHillary

  1. Robbie Shaftoe says:

    Can’t imagine how you’d survive on a 36 hour flight to New Zealand! Very funny blog post – love this line: “But the person that had the bright idea of fitting planes with so many seats, that each passenger is afforded about one inch of legroom should be shot out of a cannon.” Absolute LOL.

  2. You clearly haven’t tried travelling with children in tow – a wondrous experience in itself. I usually find heading to the airport bar helps with points 3,4,5,6,7 and 8!

  3. Oh Dean, you poor thing.

    There are so many things you can do to make your travelling easier, just by following some of the tips we regularly issue, from how to pack, how to travel hand luggage only, how to avoid overpriced food……..

    Next time you come to book, contact me and I’ll give you some advice on how to make the journey far more pleasant. After all, we don’t want you abandoing travel altogether or I’m out of a job.

  4. Duncan says:

    yes, airport check-in queues so long you’d think someone was handing out free fifty pound notes at the end of them…security that always catches you out with a hole in your sock as you shuffle through, vagrant, shoeless, cheerless, and holding your trousers up with one hand in classic tramp style.

    however, i can strongly recommend travelling with children in tow (preferably your own). they can usually prove grumpier than the most meldrew of travellers, which is amusing in its own right. here are the top 5 benefits – their tantrums and inevitable bad behaviour help to:

    a) clear congested check-in areas like moses parting the red sea
    b) split up co-passenger seating conspiracies, also ensuring no-one sits near you or your brood
    c) gratifyingly irritate the retired second-homers who are flying out to the costa del brit to escape their grandparently duties and soak up the sun in peace
    d) distract you, the traveller, from your own grumbles – the children’s quickly replace yours
    e) genuinely make you relish your arrival at your final destination in ways you’d never imagined pre-children

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